CHICAGO (FOX 13) - She’s the baby that doctors in Chicago are calling a medical miracle. Meet Dominique, a 10-month-old who was born with a parasitic twin.
Half of her twin's body never developed, leaving Dominique with two spines and an extra set of legs protruding from her back.
Aside from the obvious practical concerns, doctors explained that Dominique’s heart and lungs were essentially performing for two bodies, which would shorten her life span. She also had no bone covering her spinal cord at the back of her neck, which left her at risk of paralysis.
That meant it was important for Dominique to have the potentially life-saving surgery as early in her life as possible, but she was born in the Ivory Coast, and there were no resources in the African nation for her to have such a complicated procedure.
It took weeks of planning and help from Children's Medical Missions West, then three long flights. But Dominique finally arrived in the Chicago area last month to stay with a host family and prepare for the surgery.
Her host family was happy to welcome her, even with the short notice.
“We thought about her family far, far away, trusting us, trusting the doctors she had never met, trusting the host family, trusting the escort that flew her halfway around the world. But there was a bond right away,” host ‘mom’ Nancy Swabb said. “She was so sweet and so ready to accept love and show affection, we knew she was loved.”
Last week, a team of five surgeons performed a successful six-hour surgery at Advocate Children's Hospital in Chicago. They say she is recovering well and her host mom said Dominique already seems steadier.
“She is about two pounds lighter and she sits up and she’s raising her hands, she reaches for things and she’s doing really well,” Swabb continued.
“Now, she’s essentially a normal baby,” Dr. Kellogg agreed.
Parasitic twins are very rare, only occurring once in every million live births. Dominique’s particular scenario is even more rare.
“There’s actually just a handful of case reports in medical literature on this, such that it’s really hard to get a number on,” Dr. Kellogg added.
Doctors fully expect Dominique to live a normal life. She will be reunited with her parents and sisters in Africa soon, possibly within a month.
When that happens, her host mom has a message for her real mom:
“We’ve loved her every second,” Swabb smiled. “The doctors here have done an amazing job and have been able to give her baby girl a brand new life.”